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IN FOCUS: Pushing for a federal GMO labeling solution

A new agricultural coalition is asking Congress to seek a federal solution and establish standards for genetically modified food and feed ingredients.

IN FOCUS: Pushing for a federal GMO labeling solution
MORE than 30 food and agriculture organizations, ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the National Restaurant Association, are calling on Congress to quickly develop a federal solution that would establish standards for the safety of feed, food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients.

Earlier this month the groups launched the Coalaition for Safe Affordable Food under the belief that establishing a single federal labeling standard for genetically modified ingredients would protect consumers by reaffirming the Food and Drug Administration's role as the nation's "foremost authority on the use and labeing of foods containing genetically modified ingredients." The Coalition's stated goal is to eliminate confusion, advance food safety, inform consumers and provide consistency.

Among the more than 30 members of the coalition are several feed and processing organizations, including the Corn Refiners Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association and the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA).

“AFIA firmly believes there should be a federal GMO labeling solution protecting consumers by ensuring the safety of both food and feed ingredients produced through the use of modern agricultural biotechnology,” said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA director of  ingredients, pet food and state affairs. “If a labeling solution is not agreed upon and even a few of the pending state initiatives are successful, the feed industry’s cost of doing business goes up, on-farm production costs go up, and ultimately the consumer pays the price, with no important information in hand.”

Among the challenges facing food producers and marketers with a patchwork of state initiatives dealing with the GMO labeling issue is a great deal of uncertainty, and ultimately a great deal of added cost and confusion for consumers. Wilkinson said one example of why a federal solution is needed is the simple task of defining common marketing terms in a uniform way consumers will understand.

While federal law requires feed manufacturers to meet certain standards for using the term "natural" in product marketing, the same cannot be said for human food. One of the Coalition's objectives is for FDA to define the term “natural” for its use on food and beverage products so that food and beverage companies and consumers have a consistent legal framework that will guide food labels and inform consumer choice.

“With the vast majority of U.S.-produced corn and soybeans enhanced through biotechnology, U.S. feed products made with these genetically modified ingredients are deemed safe by FDA, and have been used by the industry for more than 20 years. They are beneficial to not only the industry, but to the planet and its population as a whole,” said Wilkinson.

It is expected the global population will increase from 7 billion people to 9 billion people by 2050, and the world will need 70 percent more food production to meet the growing demand.

“AFIA recognizes the need for a consistent, national GMO labeling solution, but is strongly against labeling laws set by political campaigns or state and local legislatures. AFIA recommends FDA determine whether labeling is necessary as it is most in tune with our nation’s animal feed and food systems,” Wilkinson continued. “Such a solution determined by FDA, will help the industry to safely and continuously use evolving production technology to help meet global needs.”

Listen: Leah Wilkinson, American Feed Industry Association director of ingredients, pet food and state affairs, discusses the new Coalition for Safe Affordable Food in the latest edition of the Feedstuffs In Focus podcast. Listen here. Feedstuffs In Focus is sponsored by Kemin Industries.

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